Managing Heart Failure in extreme Heat
I am currently going through my first summer after being diagnosed with Heart Failure in January 2010. Writing this I am thinking maybe I should write this next year when I am an expert but the subject is always at the top of my mind so nothing like the present but I thought I would need some help so the following is an excerpt from the British Heart Foundations website.
“Extremely hot weather can cause dehydration and heat exhaustion. Heat and humidity can
interfere with the body’s natural cooling process. If you have a heart problem, extreme
heat may place an extra burden on your heart and circulation.
Excessive sweating in hot weather increases the loss of fluid from your body. This reduces
the total blood volume. This will increase the workload of your heart and the demand for
oxygen, which can lead to angina if you have coronary heart disease. Losing too much
body fluid will also increase your internal body temperature, which could be life-threatening if left untreated.
If you are in hot and humid weather, it is very important to wear light, comfortable clothing. Managing your fluids is a very difficult process as you are trying to balance excess perspiration as well as the diuretic action of your drugs. If you feel as though you need to increase your fluids have a chat with your clinician. However if you need to take more fluid on board then sip the fluid or have a look at some of my tips, sweets, frozen grapes and water spray. Try to avoid caffeine-based drinks because these act as a
diuretic. (That means that they increase the amount of fluid you get rid of through your kidneys.)
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, cold clammy skin, dizziness,
muscle cramps, shallow or fast breathing, nausea and vomiting. If you have any of these
symptoms, get medical attention immediately.
It’s a good idea to consult your doctor if you have any concerns about extremes of
temperature or have plans to travel to a country with either a hot or cold climate.
Health spas, saunas, jacuzzis and steam rooms
If you have a heart condition or have high blood pressure, it is generally advisable not to
use spa facilities – including baths, saunas, jacuzzis or steam rooms. In particular, don’t
use facilities that involve a sudden change of temperature – for example, having a hot
sauna and then plunging into a cold bath. If you particularly want to use any of these
facilities, ask your doctor about it first. Depending on what heart condition you have, your
doctor can give you advice on which types of facilities you should avoid.
Diuretics used to be known as water pills because they stop fluid collecting in your body and make you urinate more often. These are one of the most common treatments in heart disease. However, there have been only a few large studies into how effective they are in heart failure.
Researchers have combined the findings from smaller studies and concluded that diuretics extend life and improve symptoms of heart failure. Clinicians recommend them for people with heart failure who have signs of fluid retention, such as swollen ankles or breathlessness due to fluid in the lungs. Doctors will vary the dose of diuretic depending on your symptoms.
There are many different types of diuretic, but some of the most widely used for heart failure are bendroflumethiazide, chlorthalidone and furosemide.
You have to realise that Heart Failure is a complexed condition and is very dynamic. What we mean by that is that it doesn’t have one symptom that will cause failure of the Heart.
We also believe that not all Heart Failure Patients should be categorised with Heart Failure as in a lot of cases it is not failure of the heart, it should be categorised as a dysfunction of the heart. Although not curable at the moment symptons can be managed.
Knowing the symptoms of heart failure is very important. These symptons can manifest themselves in any age of person – this is really important as the medical profession are not focussed on people under 40 getting Heart Failure symptoms and that is a fact because it is so rare. If in doubt demand a BNP test from your Doctor.
So how do I know if I have developed heart failure?
What are the symptoms of heart failure?
The main symptoms of heart failure are:
• Breathlessness (dyspnoea) when you’re more active than usual or sometimes when you’re resting.
• Extreme tiredness and weakness.
• Swelling in the abdomen,legs, ankles and feet (oedema).
These symptoms are often caused by other conditions, but they are signs that you might have heart failure. Your doctor may suggest doing some tests to see if you have got heart failure, or to rule it out as a cause for your symptoms.
Other symptoms that might be associated with heart failure include:
• Being woken up in the middle of the night gasping for breath (paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnoea).
• A cough that will not go away.
• Nausea (feeling sick).
• Lack of appetite.
• Confusion or difficulties in concentrating.
If you have already been diagnosed with heart failure and you get any of these symptoms, or the ones you already have do not get better, it could mean that the condition is worsening and you need to have your treatment changed.
Heart Failure diagnosis not only affects the patient but also the whole family. It is a very difficult time for all and there are many physical and emotional obstacles to overcome. We have found that the best source of self help for carers of Heart Failure is the British Heart Foundations publication “Living with Heart Failure”. This really is a comprehensive and well thought out section in this publication and is especially invaluable for people needing to care for patients with severe Heart Failure.
Your carer is invaluable and as a patient you need to be aware of the stresses and strains on your carer. They not only offer that crucial emotional support but are often your second set of eyes. The eyes that recognise changes in you, Heart Failure patients aren’t necessarily the best at seeing new symptoms or a deterioration of existing symptoms. Below you will find a list of warning signs to look out for. Depending on the severity of your Heart Failure or your drug regime these effect people in different ways.
Memory problems or lack of concentration
Disturbed sleep pattern
Slow weight gain (with no change in diet or exercise regime)
Weight loss (with no change in diet or exercise regime)
Lack of sex drive
Below you will find a list of symptoms that if they get worse the I suggest you seek immediate medical attention.
Swelling of the feet,ankles or abdomen
Sudden weight gain
Wheezing or a dry cough
Light-headedness or dizzy spells
Heavy pressure across the chest or chest pain
Heart Failure for the patient and the carer is about management of the condition. Make sure that you mention or your carer mentions to your Heart Failure Nurse any of the above. As indicated some of these symptoms can be due to drugs.
For example if you are on an optimum dosage of a beta blocker and ace inhibitor then the propensity when you stand up quickly to feel dizzy and light headed is quite common, but just check with your Heart Nurse first.
Another example is self management of your fluid intake. You will find that when it is hot and the sun is shining and you are feeling thirsty then keep an eye on your fluid intake and let your carer influence you to stay out of direct sun light. If you do take on more than 2 litres of fluid and you feel that you maybe retaining more fluid than normal, stay in the shade for the next couple of days and reduce your fluid intake to lets say 1.5vlitres a day and you will find this will probably reduce fluid retention without the need to up the dosage of your diuretic.
Self management is key with your carers help.